Originally created 05/26/98

Atlanta seeking concessions from airport



COLLEGE PARK, Ga. -- The city of College Park is demanding major concessions from Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport officials, who are scurrying to buy the last 102 land parcels for its fifth runway.

The southwest Atlanta suburb wants its demands met before it gives up any streets or its power to condemn property to move out landowners reluctant to sell.

The city also wants the airport to buy the Georgia International Convention Center, which cost $41 million to build, and help in relocating it to keep it profitable. For three years running, the center has averaged about $9 million in revenues.

College Park Mayor Jack Longino fears the runway could foreclose its future by blocking future expansion.

College Park's other major demand is that the airport buy electricity from the city for lighting the fifth runway and any attendant buildings. That would help compensate for the loss of electrical sales College Park experienced after losing half of its population.

The new 6,000-foot commuter runway would be built on 550 acres just south of the existing four runways. The project's expected price tag is $450 million and construction is slated to begin in 1999.

The city and Clayton County are trying to mitigate the cost of the runway to their tax base and residents.

"It's big bucks we're talking about," College Park City Manager Scott Miller said.

Clayton county's demands haven't surfaced yet, but County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray said he is expecting compensation from the airport for all the rights of way the county owns.

College Park is taking the lead in negotiations, which have not yet produced any deals on condemnation power and rights of way.

"I feel pretty confident the talks will continue," Mr. Longino said. "But virtually nothing has been accomplished, and the talking will go on a long time."

Airport officials declined to discuss details of the negotiations.

"We have some very good dialogue going on, and we're making progress," Airport Deputy General Manager Andy Bell said.

Delta Air Lines, which wants the fifth runway on line as soon as possible, also has encouraged both College Park and Clayton County to make deals with the airport.

So far, 110 homes, 240 apartments and about 100 businesses have been acquired. The airport has a budget of $184 million for the acquisitions funded mainly by a $3-per-head airline ticket tax and grants from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport hasn't had to use condemnation yet, but there likely will be some holdouts at the end of the process, said Donald Willis, the airport's liaison to Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc., the firm hired by the airport to finish up the property acquisitions.

The goal is to complete the acquisitions by July 1999, and the firm has made deals on 48 of the 150 parcels left, said Moreland Altobelli's Dee Dee Hunt.

She said the attitude among businesses has been to take the money and run. "They want to get on with their lives."